June and Beyond….
Being part of a larger creative team is wonderful. June began with a three-day workshop in Toronto of the new work Maples and the Stream with composer, Vince Ho and narrator Evelyn Hart. Vince has created a moving, dynamic, and intense 30-minute work and which embodies and enlightens the dramatic narrative arc of Lien Chao’s beautiful text. Together, the music and lyrical poetry trace one woman’s journey from China to Canada over four decades and her struggle and search for freedom and for free artistic expression. Evelyn Hart is an immense creative force who performs with such passion, conviction and honesty. Her musicianship and timing astound us every time we work with her. It was an inspiring 3 days and we look forward to the world premiere on August 3 at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. Here are some shots by the gifted photographer Christopher Manson from the sessions:
Back in St. John’s we started work on a video project for our Youtube channel. We decided to record and shoot two of our favourite movements – the Sicilienne from Bach’s Sonata in c minor and the Presto finale from the Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata. Thanks to Rich Blenkinsopp and his team at Memorial University for their hard work on these so far. The videos should be completed in a couple of month. In the meantime, here is a still of Nancy from the shoot:
We look forward to the summer for many reasons. One of the most meaningful of these is the chance to work and play with exciting young talent at various festivals, concerts and workshops. First in July, Nancy goes off to Domaine Forget for a week of teaching (July 14-20). Following the Ottawa Festival where we play 3 concerts and give a master class (August 2-4th), we go straight into our Tuckamore Festival (August 5-19th). This year there will be 21 young artists from across Canada and the US studying and performing chamber music by Shostakovich, Smetana, Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann and Dvorak. They will be joined by two emerging composers who will take part in the festival’s newly added Young Composers program under the mentorship of award-winning Andrew Staniland. Following Tuckamore, we perform and give masterclasses at the Indian River Festival in Prince Edward Island (August 23rd and 24th). At the end of August we are thrilled to be soloists with the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra (one of the country’s very best young orchestras!) in Andrew P. MacDonald’s wonderful Double Concerto under the direction of Dinuk Wijeratne. Concerts are in Lunenburg (August 29) and Halifax (August 30th). Good times!
Beethoven Album Launched!
We really enjoyed seeing many friends, supporters, former students and some of their parents at our CD launch celebration/performance at Gallery 345 on April 22nd. We were delighted to receive several very positive reviews of the album. Here are some excerpts:
“The recording made at the Glenn Gould Studio last year is so good right down to the tiniest of details that it deserves to be called a reference in the contemporary performance of these 10 great pieces.” – John Terauds, Musical Toronto
“Their musical devotion to ‘two equal and dynamic voices’ is perfectly highlighted in this superb new recording. Very highly recommended.” – Anthony Kershaw, Audiophilia
“Their expressive performances have a refreshing clarity and feel for the symmetry of the music that is a joyous experience to hear. Nowhere have I heard a more detailed refinement in these sonatas. There is as much put into the lesser known works as those more well known.” – Classical-Modern Music Review
And we also had a lovely feature/interview in Digital Journal.
Many thanks to Francine Labelle, our publicist, for all your hard work, and to Ed Epstein at Gallery 345 for hosting a wonderful event!
April 24th and 26th saw us in Kitchener-Waterloo for two concerts which marked the first time the Duo played all the six Bach sonatas in close proximity. We paired these with two new Bach-inspired works – Comme de longs echoes by Cliff Crawley and Petrichor by Jocelyn Morlock. It was interesting to see how differently these two wonderful composers approached the task of creating a Bach-influenced piece. Cliff drew upon a number of famous Bach fragments, the notes of Bach’s name [B (B-flat), A , C, H (B natural)], modern dance rhythms, and he used a rich chromatic and contrapuntal texture to create a charming, whimsical, clever, and humorous piece.
Jocelyn attended the premiere of her piece and we were really glad to work with her prior to the performance. The word “petrichor” is defined as “the distinctive scent which accompanies the first rain after a long warm dry spell,” and the piece really conveys the restrained then increasingly ecstatic joy that rain can bring after a draught. (Jocelyn is now a Vancouverite but she was born and raised in Manitoba. She knows of what she writes!) The Bachian elements used here were a fragment from the first movement of the sixth sonata (down a seventh up a step), various trills and Baroque-like improvised-sounding melodic figures. Somehow — even though most of the Bach connections in the two pieces are quite hidden — these both work beautifully as companions to the set of six magical sonatas. Thank you Jocelyn and Cliff! (The audiences loved them too.) We feel the concept of programming Bach alongside new works works really well; we’ll be doing a similar program at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival on August 4th.
April 27th took us back to Toronto where we were happy to be a part of a CMC fundraising concert. Here we are being interviewed by David Jaeger alongside Jocelyn Morlock. This concert featured Morlock, Jaeger, Schafer and Gougeon.
In Lunenburg Nova Scotia (Nancy’s hometown) the very next evening, we worked with Peggy Hemsworth, a producer for the CBC, who recorded this concert for the Musique Royale series for an upcoming radio broadcast. (A bit of a digression now follows…)
Turns out Peggy and a preteen Nancy were both members of the South Shore Concert Orchestra (imagine the Portsmouth Symphony times 2). This orchestra was Nancy’s first orchestral experience (she started private violin lesson at 10) and talking to Peggy sure brought back memories! In the late 1970, early 80s this community group had a total of eight violins, no violas, 1 cello, no bass. Some of the wind players doubled on two instruments; for example, a clever doctor managed to go between the French horn and clarinet depending on which part was most needed. The one section Nancy recalls being competent and well-fortified was the percussion section (which is where Peggy was playing timpani). However, the most vivid memories for Nancy revolve around her 93-year-old stand partner in the back of the second violins. Each rehearsal, Ruby would be led into the rehearsal by the arm by another member of the orchestra who also carried her violin. Once helped into her chair, she would be given her violin. Ruby never tuned her violin; in fact, her bow never made contact with the strings, ever. She would “airbow” over the string like a windshield wiper for the entire rehearsal. For two years, Nancy turned pages for Ruby (meaning that at the page turn, Nancy would stop playing to turn and their stand then produced no sound). On one fateful and momentous evening concert, in an arrangement of the Waltz of the Flowers by J Strauss (or something similar) and during a GRAND PAUSE: Ruby made contact with the strings in a big way .. it was quite the sound!
Now on to learning a major new work by Vince Ho, text by Lien Chao which will be narrated by the wonderful Evelyn Hart. We start work shopping the piece in a few weeks in Toronto and will premiere it on August 3rd at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival!
In Praise of Preparations, Premieres and the Unexpected
These first few weeks of April mark the end of the semester at Memorial University where we both teach. There are many juries and recitals to help prepare our students for, and many of these recitals are the first outings of this magnitude for some of them. Through extra lesson, dress rehearsals, etc., we do our best to help “prepare them for the unexpected,” knowing of course that, in a live performance, anything can happen. (For example, when Nancy was an undergrad, she miraculously moved her bridge a centimeter to the left during vigourous up bow in a thankfully not-too-public performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto.) This universal truth –that anything can happen at a performance– was shown to be true in a unique way during a grad student’s recent recital. During the final bow (it was a lovely recital, btw), the student’s boyfriend strode onstage, flowers in hand, got down on one knee, produced a ring and – yes, you guessed it – proposed in front of the entire audience. This was definitely a first in the history of our School of Music! (She did say yes…)
Our own slightly less glamorous preparations are underway too – for five concerts coming up in the 3rd and 4th weeks of April. We are practicing a number of different programs which encompass the six violin and keyboard sonatas by Bach, a Beethoven sonata, and new Canadian works by Gougeon, Crawley, Schafer, Morlock and David Jaeger. The Morlock and Jaeger are new to us. Living composers are generally awe-inspiring and, as performers, we are especially grateful for the really good ones! Jocelyn’s Petrichor came to us a couple weeks ago (its premiere will be on April 26 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, and we will play it again on April 27th at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto), and it is beautiful – well-crafted and elegantly, idiomatically written for the instruments (always appreciated, though not totally necessary). Jocelyn really has a unique harmonic language and sincere musical voice. The soul/message of this piece spoke to us immediately and becomes clearer to us each time we rehearse it. We are so enjoying the process of learning this work!
We are also enjoying getting to know David Jaeger’s music! As many of you may know, David has been selflessly promoting, championing, supporting, fighting for, etc. other Canadian composers and their music for years and years through his work as a senior producer at the CBC radio. (He “retired” last December.) He made a monumental impact on the careers of young composers and performers in this country through programs such as the Two New Hours (woefully, it is no longer) and the CBC commissioning program to name but a couple. But now we have the pleasure and honour of playing his Sonata Tristan and Isolde at the Canadian Music Centre on April 27th. How many of us even remember that David began his career as a composer? Well, he did, and we’re very excited to play this wonderful piece filled with lyricism, energy and drama. (On our last three recording, we were fortunate to have David as the producer. This includes our new complete Beethoven sonata album. We celebrate its release with a performance at the Gallery 345 in Toronto on Monday April 22 at 8 pm! All are most welcome….)
So, to summarize what we’re gearing up for this month –
Monday, April 22: Performance and Beethoven album release celebration at Gallery 345 in Toronto, 8 pm.
Wednesday, April 24: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 1, 5, and 3 for Violin and Keyboard as well as Clifford Crawley’s Bach-inspired Comme de longs echos (2012), 8 pm.
Friday, April 26: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 2, 4, and 6 and the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s Petrichor (commissioned with the generous assistance of the Canada Council), 8 pm.
Saturday, April 27: Benefit concert for the CMC at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. Works by Gougeon, Morlock, Jaeger, Bach, Beethoven,7:30 pm.
Sunday, April 28: Cecilia by the Sea series, St John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg NS, 7:30. Concert to be broadcast by CBC on a future In Concert.